Sir John's Cross
Sir John's Cross
During the 16th century, at Queen Elizabeth's court, there was a man known as Earl Ashenbert. Said to be the descendant of the Lord Blue Knight, he was an adventurer who'd travelled the world, and he entertained the many people who gathered at court with fantastic stories of the things he'd experienced.
One of his listeners compiled several of those stories as well as the story of his forefather--the Lord Blue Knight--and they were released together in a book by F. Brown: The Blue Knight Earl / The Traveller from the Land of Faery. Lydia knew it well.
After her mother died, her father read the many stories to her, and this was one of the stories among them.
She remembers her father telling her it was a real story. Naturally, since Lydia knew fairies existed, she didn't question him at all.
The fairy peoples that have their own countries have their own fairy monarchs, but Lydia remembers being struck by the concept that there were some groups among them who acknowledged a human as their ruler.
The story that used the Lord Blue Knight as its model. Most likely it's that which caused the book to generally be considered a fictional work about fairies.
However, Lydia found every aspect of those fantastic stories as being possible. What Edgar had said about the noble sword, too, was written in those stories.
In the final part, there is a scene where the Lord Blue Knight is about to depart from Edward I's side. He said he was returning to fairy lands. When asked by the King if he would ever return to the court, he answered, "Of course, if your majesty should ever call for me, I will come. I am ever your loyal servant. However, time moves differently between this world and the fairy world. Even though only a year has passed there, a hundred years may have gone by here. And there are times when one has grown old after decades have passed there, even though mere days have passed here. Thus, should ever I or one of my descendants come to return to your majesty's side, I hope you will please understand that."
Upon hearing that, the King presented the Lord Blue Knight with his own sword. And by the name of his majesty, King Edward the First, the English monarch would recognise the Blue Knight Earl and welcome him to the court if and when he should ever return.
A number of times since then, it's said that the Lord Blue Knight's descendants have appeared at the royal court in England.
And it was with one of them that the author of the Tales of the Blue Knight Earl--Mr. Brown--had met.
And now, Edgar is saying he's their descendant.
He was seeking King Edward I's noble sword which would prove his status as Earl. And the job Lydia, as a fairy doctor, was being commissioned for was to find that sword.
"Well, that's okay, isn't it? Why not help him?"
Nico was in a surprisingly good mood since this morning. But then, pancakes and bacon were properly served for breakfast.
"Weren't you the one who was saying he seemed rather fishy yesterday?"
"But if you don't, you'll probably get dumped off penniless in some unknown place."
I wonder if he was serious with that threat.
"But even if I help, there's no guarantee I'll be able to find the sword."
"Just get paid in advance and get as much as you can out of him. Ah, as long as you can get some money, we can always make a run for it, the cat said easily. He was sitting with a napkin at his neck, brazenly used his knife and fork as he ate some bacon.
If she was going to ask for money, then it was only right for her to carry out her task; that's what work is, after all. But Lydia was still unsure whether Edgar really was the successor to the sword. But as long as she didn't flee, as Nico was suggesting, it'd be difficult to refuse to help.
"I have to write to father."
Lydia took out the stationery and envelopes from the desk by the window.
[My dearest father,
It seems my arrival in London will be a little delayed. I've received a commission regarding fairies by Earl Ashenbert. Apparently, he's the descendant of the Lord Blue Knight. While I don't know if it's true or not, it doesn't look like he'll let me leave before my work is done.]
She debated if she should write about almost being locked up by the man who called himself Huskley. However, it seemed like it would only cause him worry, so she decided against it.
[In any case, please don't worry about me. Take care,]
After she signed her name and sealed the envelope, she heard a knock at her door.
It was Edgar. He smiled brightly as he wished her 'good morning'. His blond hair was bright in the morning sun. So much so that she could help wondering resentfully if God hadn't been a bit too generous with him.
"Did you want something?"
"I was thinking we'd plan out what to do next."
He entered the room as though he owned the place and sat down on one of the sofas. His foreign servant took his place by the door and stood unmoving.
Having already finished his meal, Nico lay stretched out on a cushion. Edgar didn't get to see the Nico as he ate.
"For starters, take a look at this."
Edgar placed a coin on the table nearby. Lydia took a seat facing him before taking the coin.
"It's an old gold coin."
"It bears the earl's coat of arms. Also, there's something engraved on it, right? It's said that fairies engraved something in the fae tongue on it."
"I can't tell; it's too small."
"Even though you're a fairy doctor?"
Lydia got a little annoyed.
"You know, you could just look at this with a magnifying glass. I don't know if you're thinking that, just because fairies are supposed to be involved it's all very mysterious, but I'll be able to solve things with some mysterious power instantly. But I'll have you know that a fairy doctors arsenal is their knowledge of the fae, and the ability to make deals with them. I'm not a sorceress."
"I understand. And this is a copy of what could be seen under a magnifying glass. Can you read it now?"
He handed over a sheet of paper.
Lydia frowned visibly. 'He should've just given that in the first place.'
On top of that, while the lettering was a bit unique, if you didn't allow yourself to be fooled by talk of fairies, it was clear that the words were in English.
"......It's clearly in English. Are you testing me?"
"I don't know how good you really are. Most people can't see things like ghosts, fairies, or the future. So there are some people who like to claim that they're the only ones knowledgeable about such things. But you're not trying to tie everything to the mysterious, nor does it seem like you're going to say I wouldn't understand or anything foolish like that. Even learning that much is good for both sides, right?" he asked off-handedly.
Lydia's frown deepened. But being taken so lightly was still annoying.
"You're the descendant of the Lord Blue Knight, yet unable to see fairies. So tell me my lord earl, do you believe that fairies really are the ones who engraved this coin?"
"A person did this. At the very least, it's not impossible for a person to do something this fine. It certainly doesn't prove fairies exist."
"In other words, you basically don't believe fairies exist. And yet, you believe in the noble sword that is said to be protected by fairies, and intend to have a fairy doctor search for it even though you can't tell if I'm a fraud or not?"
"With respect to the Lord Blue Knight's sword, there's historic record of it and there's nothing mysterious about it. The problem is where it's been hidden. Fairy names are mentioned in the words indicating that hiding place. Lydia, you said that a fairy doctor's arsenal is there knowledge about the Fae and the ability to trade with them. I want that knowledge. I don't need any strange abilities. All I need is to be able to understand the meaning behind these engraved words. Does it hurt your pride that I'd seek a fairy doctor's help to do so, despite my own disbelief in the Fae?"
The challenging look he gave her made Lydia want to make him to come to acknowledge
The bonds between humans and fairies run so deep that they cannot be understood through knowledge alone.
"Edgar, unless you seek more from me than my knowledge, you won't be able to find the sword."
"Lovely. Well, for starters, read this."
Lydia took a breath before taking the sheet of paper.
"Jack-in-the-Green is from the spunkie's cradle. Dance in the moonlight with the pixies. Past Silkie's cross. The phouka is a maze. ......What is this?"
"That's what I want to know."
The names of fairies continued in the same vein. In any case, Lydia read through it to the end.
"......the merrow's star in exchange for the star. Else the merrow shall sing a song of lament. ......this is the last of it?"
"Merrow's star refers to the star sapphire that adorns the sword."
"Well, in that case, this last part deals with the sword itself then. I wonder what this part about exchanging for a star means."
"I don't know about that part either, let alone the rest of it."
"The first half looks like they're hints about where the sword's been hidden. What lands do you hold? Unless we go there, it's hard to say anything."
"There lands and buildings are scattered throughout England."
Edgar spread out a map. There were red X's all over the place.
"Where are we supposed to start?"
"That's another thing I'd like to know."
Lydia was nonplussed. It would take a long time if they were to investigate every place. And yet this guy just summed it all up in that one line and left it for her to do."
Well, it was the work he was hiring Lydia for.
'Work, huh?' Lydia murmured.
It seemed she had no choice but to accept. But, thinking about things, it was one of those rare cases that really required a fairy doctor. Since she wanted to become a true fairy doctor, now wasn't the time to trip up. Feeling a bit desperate, she felt herself get fired up.
Perhaps there was a hint about where to start among the engraed words. Looking between the maps and the memo, she noticed one peculiarity.
"My, there are a lot of Irish fairies, aren't there?"
"Hm, really? But I don't have any land or manors there."
"Not to mention 'merrow' is the Irish word for the merfolk, but if this does leads to the sword, it might be somewhere near the sea."
She followed the western coastline near Ireland. There was one mark on the coast overlooking the Irish sea.
"Ah, what about here? Manaan Island. An island should have a legend or two about the merfolk."
"In that case, we'll start from here."
It looked like she was taking a very roundabout route to London.
"Just to make things clear, I don't intend to work for free and would rather be paid up front."
"All right. How much?"
Come to think of it, seeing how she'd never had any real commissions up until then, she'd never really hammered out a proper schedule of fees. It was only then that she realised that.
But if he realised that he'd take advantage of her, so Lydia desperately maintained a pokerface. If she made it too cheap, he'd probably look down on her. Lydia daringly held her hand up in front of Edgar with five fingers splayed.
Edgar made no comment about her sign and called his servant.
Raven didn't wait for Edgar's orders and left the room. He returned shortly carrying an ebony tray with a cheque on it.
Edgar signed it in front of Lydia. She almost made a sound of surprise when she saw the cheque he handed her.
"Will that do?"
She thought fifty pounds was quite an exorbitant amount, but five hundred?
Being handed that much money so readily, she felt too embarrassed to set things straight.
"We have a deal then. I'm counting on you."
As Edgar got to his feet, Raven addressed Lydia for the first time.
"Miss, shall I take your letter to the post?"
Apparently he'd noticed the envelope on her desk. Under normal circumstances, Lydia would've thought him to be a very observant servant, but she immediately sensed danger in the air.
Raven noticed that Lydia was trying to contact someone on the outside, deliberately bringing it Edgar's attention.
"It's okay, I'll mail it myself," she replied flustered.
She noticed Edgar look sharply at the letter.
"Who are you writing to?"
"......My father. I have to let him know that I'll be delayed. Is there a problem?"
"I can't afford to have our movements being discovered by the others. Huskley and the others will beat us there."
"I'm just telling him I'll be arriving later than expected."
"Even that much makes it clear that you're helping me. You see, Lydia, on top of making a deal, I'm now your employer. So not only do I need you to keep my secrets close, but I also want you to do as I say."
While he spoke mildly, there was a distinct strength in his tone that brooked no argument. He was used to getting people to do as he wished. His quiet gaze, the clear tone in his voice, his straight posture, they were all intrinsic qualities of the nobility, and gave the impression that his words were absolute.
Despite feeling a hint of rebelliousness, Lydia could only fall silent.
"I'm sorry for asking so much. But Lydia, it's in your own best interest not to cause me any trouble."
At his mild tone, the thought that he might throw her overboard if she secretly mailed the letter flashed briefly through her mild.
It was so mild yet scary; it was a strange sensation.
Lydia realised that she was essentially in the same situation as she'd been when being watched by Huskley and the others. She couldn't tell which of the two was the better to be with.
Her letter to her father was left on her desk, but no doubt he was sure she wouldn't try to secretly mail it. And in truth, Lydia lost the desire to do so.
The loyal servant was no mere employee of his, but was his trusted right arm man. Perhaps even an accomplice; Lydia felt like she'd seen that sort of unity among them.
It could be that he really would kill anyone that caused Edgar harm.
"Hey, next time make the milk tea hotter. I don't have a cat's sensitive tongue," Nico said to Edgar and Raven as they went to leave the room. Lydia stared at Nico unsure what he meant by speaking so suddenly, but Edgar gave no sign of having heard. Raven looked back slightly but perhaps he decided he was just hearing things as he quickly followed his lord out.
"The descendant of the Lord Blue Knight, huh? In his mind, there's no way cats talk, so no doubt he doesn't see fairies, and wouldn't understand them either.
If that's the case, it means that ultimately she's helping a fraud. Either which way, she didn't have any other choice. Lydia couldn't help feeling helpless, almost like she were a captive.
Hopefully it makes sense. One of these days, I'll actually get to read what I've written. (You know, it never even occurred to me until today that I should be using my procrastination time towards JLPT and not this...? Boy am I slow on the draw this year. *sigh* ) Anyhow, I'm off to write. >.<;